By Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is situated in E20, in a part of east London that didn’t exist, let alone have its own postcode, before the 2012 Olympics. This green and pleasant land is the very welcome legacy of that sporting summer and it lies between Westfield Stratford shopping centre and Hackney Wick, providing some non-commercial, non-industrial landscape for the area. Although a new part of London, it is easy to get to—Stratford is full of bus, Tube, Overground and DLR routes. The park itself is accessible via canal paths and waterways for those who fancy approaching on foot, and parking is available at the shopping centre if you want to drive. The other convenience about the Olympic Park is its opening hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The attractions inside have individual opening hours independent from those of the park, but it is truly accessible to all.
There is something for everyone in the Olympic Park, whether you want river walks, kids’ playgrounds, wide-open green spaces or beautiful landscaping and planting. There’s also sports architecture and Olympic history to explore—it’s hard to find fault in a place so well designed.
Paths run on different levels, which keep return visits interesting; you may never walk the same route twice. Lots of thought has been given to accessibility, meaning the whole park is good for pushchairs, wheelchairs and kids on scooters, with lots of wide paths, ramps and benches for resting. There are also good but far-between baby-changing units and toilets—it’s worth checking the map for your nearest facilities as they aren’t spread evenly across the site.
For toddlers and younger children there is a play area with a very popular water pump, swings and climbing frames—this is conveniently close to the Westfield entrance and within bolting distance of several kiosks for shelter and emergency ice creams. For older, more adventurous kids, there is the Tumbling Bay Playground, packed full of rope bridges, climbing frames, treehouses and sandpits; this is in the north end of the park but is close to Timber Lodge, a café and community centre that makes the trip further inland worth it.
And the major attraction for all children, of any age, is the fountain near the Westfield entrance. This series of jets shoots straight out of the ground in a choreographed sequence of high and low spurts. On hot days, the place is choked with excited children leaping in and out of the jets, and the occasional well-prepared kid whose parents have brought towels, swimming costumes and flip flops for the mayhem. Pure delight cascades out of that fountain.
Go, to say you’ve been. Go, to make the most of what the Olympics gave to London. Go, to enjoy the scenery and scale of the place. Go, to inspire your children to enjoy sports and the great outdoors—all within zone 3 of the Tube map, for free.
For more information, visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website.